Ayodhya Nath Kerni
There are many Shiva Shrines in J&K but Shiv Khori Shrine is famous for its uniqueness. A cave held in the lap of a hill and images inside are heart touching. An atmosphere of sheer peace and serenity pervades the shrine. There are two routes from Jammu to reach the shrine one via Katra and other via Domel. Ransoo a base camp and a small town is 79 km from Katra. There are many worth seeing spots on the way or nearby having religious back drop also. The devotees visiting Shiv Khori from Katra also visit Aghar Jitto 5 Km from Katra. A big statue of Baba Jitto, temple and natural water spring are held near the road. At about 4 Km ahead there is a spot known as Nau Deviyan. There is a natural cave and nine small pindis of Durga. After covering other three kilometers there is a spot known as Karua and after walking about one and half Kms there is another spot called Dhansar where a natural manifested Shiva Lingum is there. Natural water drops fall on sanctum sanctorium. The source of water dropping is not known. About 8 Km from Karua there is a spot known as Shoola. There is a Shiv kund in beautiful park and stone made Nandi. Reasi is 6 km from Shoola. There is an old temple of Mahakali near bus stand of Reasi. After crossing over river Chenab there is a town known as Pauni about 22 Km from Reasi. One has to proceed to Bharakh from Pauni and then Kanda. Shivkhori is 10 Km from Kanda and Ransoo 6 Km base camp. The distance of 4 Km has to be covered either on foot or on horse or palquine. The hotel facilities are also available at Ransoo. The torches and raincoats are also made available to the visitors.
After walking over little distance there is an iron bridge on Doodhganga whose water is white as milk. After crossing the bridge devotees offer atta rolls to fish held in Anjani kund. After walking over about one Km there is another bridge and a temple under construction. The spot is called Navani. On occasion of Shivratri Bhandara is organized. A dak bungalow is also available for the tourists.
According to legend Bhasamasur meditated Lord Shiva for a long period. Lord was pleased with his meditation and appeared before Bhasamasur to grant him a boon as per his desire. Bhasamasur requested Lord Shiva to grant him the boon that upon whose head he places his hand would be destroyed by burning. Lord Shiva gave him the nod for the same. Bhasamasur decided to test it on Lord Shiva so that he could marry goddess Parvati and thus he would win the universe. A battle between Lord Shiva and Bhassmasur took place at Ransoo which literally means as battle field. Lord Shiva along with Parvati entered the Shiv Khori cave and closed the cave from inside. Bhasamasur kept waiting the exit of Lord Shiva. Meanwhile, Lord Vishnu disguised himself as Goddess Parvati and appeared before Bhasamasur. The asur was surprised to see Parvati and asked Her how she came out of the cave. Disuised Parvati told Bhasmasur that she did not enter the cave. She also purposed to marry Bhasamasur provided he performs the Tandav dance and pleases Her. Bhasamasur denied that he was knowing the dance. Parvati told him that she will make the dancing poses and he should copy her and thus the dance could be performed. During the performance of Tandav dance Parvati put her hand on her head and while repeating all this he also put his hand on his head thereby burnt and vanished.
There is a big entrance gate of the cave approximately size 15′ wide and 20′ high. The path becomes narrow and narrower as one enters the cave. The electrification inside the cave has been made but devotees often carry torches as a precautionary measure when ever there is no light. One has to lean and advance inside the cave. Sometime one has to sit and advance however no crawling is intended. There is deficiency of oxygen inside the cave. During heavy rush suffocation is felt inside the cave. The length of the cave is about 100 mts. Devotees cover this distance by concentrating on Lord Shiva and chanting Shiva Slogans. Cave becomes broader at the end and turns right. After climbing few steps there is spacious part of the cave about 3′ high Shiva Lingum is there. Mata Parvati, Kartika and other devtas are held in the shape of small Pindis.
Ganesha idol is also held. There is a cow image on the roof rock of the cave above the Shiva lingum. The water drops on Shiva Lingum fall from the teat of cow image continuously. There are other images held on the rock such as Om, Sheshnag etc. These images are natural. The devotees enjoy the eternal peace. The geologist may call it lime stone formation or much more. Devotees hold the staunch belief that images have been sculpted by nature by carving with the chisel of divine power.
There are other idols of Mahakali, Saraswati and Pandavas also. Another cave starts from this point which is closed. It is said that this cave leads to baba Amarnath. An exit gate has been made here in view of rush. When Bhasmasur was vanished Mata Parvati insisted Lord Shiva should relate her Amar Katha i.e how to become immortal. There may be danger of Asuri powers in future so Lord should tell her the way of becoming immortal. The place where Parvati compelled the Lord Shiva to narrate Amar Katha is known as Triath which is 10 Km from Shiv Khori. In search of a secluded place where no other may listen Amarkatha, they proceeded to Amarnath cave.
The visitors proceed to Shiv Khori through out the year but rush is noticed on full moon days. Devotees visiting Mata Vaishno Devi are often visiting Shiv Khori Shrine also. On the occasion of Shivratri there is a big mela for three consecutive days. Shrine Board and other government agencies are enhancing the facilities to be provided to the visitors each year. This year extra electricity poles are being erected to provide more street lights so that yatra could commence peacefully during day and night. There are many langers provided at Ransoo and on the way to shrine on the occasion of Shivratri. Mela concludes by arranging a wrestling match where in many wrestlers participate. This year 80 wrestlers are expected to participate in the match.